Social expenditure tripled in last 10 years? Really?

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screengrab: HDB

Rounding up the Budget debate, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said that the Government had near-tripled social expenditure in last 10 years. he said that its spending of $12.7 billion in financial year 2006 in areas such as housing, healthcare, education and community development was increased to $34 billion in FY2016.

“We introduced major schemes to open up multiple pathways to success for all, provide assurance in key areas of need and strengthen social safety nets…In education, we significantly enhanced the quality, affordability and accessibility for all across all levels, from preschool to tertiary. In housing, we increased housing supply and housing subsidies. In healthcare, we enhanced Government subsidies across all care settings.” – Mr Heng

Socio-economic commenter Chris Kuan has however argued in his Facebook that the Singapore Government’s social spending increase should be better explained.

“(The) $34b in Social Development expenditures are not $34b the government has thrown in benefits in cash and in kind (e.g. grants and subsidies) to you. Benefits which are social transfers are only part of Social Development expenditures which include stuff like paying hospital staffs and civil servants deployed in social assistance programs, building facilities such as community centers, etc, etc. How much of that $34b are actual social transfers – that is very hard to tell, at least from the budget numbers.”

He added that the Social Development expenditure at 8 percent of GDP is still on the low-side when compared to other first world countries. Such countries spend 8 percent on healthcare alone, Chris explained.

Chris added that it should also be reported how much money drained from household savings into state coffers by real estate price increase over the past 10 years.